While rabbits and rodents do not require the same detailed care and attention that most domesticated pets require, it is still very important to provide an environment that is conducive to their specific lifestyle.
Rabbits and rodents were once considered to be in the same family of mammals. However, due to later discovering vast differences in their diet and behavior, a new order or species was created for the rabbit breeds. Some of the differences between these two species are outlined below and will assist a new pet owner when deciding between the two.
Rabbits – Lagomorph Order
Rabbits can be housed indoors or outdoors given the proper structure is provided in either setting.
- Indoors, a rabbit can be kept in a standard-size cage as long as he/she is given an opportunity to exercise daily in a more spacious area.
- Outdoors, rabbits can be housed in a hutch or pen ideally constructed of wood with a solid roof. Wire mesh should be used for the flooring to allow for proper ventilation.
Most rabbits can handle the varying degrees of cold with proper bedding. The addition of hay and plastic covering over the cage can help shield the rabbit from the intensely cold temperatures. It is more difficult for a rabbit to adjust to the high heat in the summer months. Therefore, it is essential to keep the rabbit well hydrated and to provide other resources available to assist them with keeping their body temperatures regulated.
Rabbits need a diet rich in hay and fiber pellets which can be found in most pet or feed stores. While some television cartoons and online websites may encourage feeding carrots to a rabbit, it is best to limit their consumption of this vegetable due to the higher sugar content. Rabbits need fresh water on a daily basis.
Provide your pet rabbit with various items to help prevent boredom. Rabbits prefer being able to hop around and dig in the dirt. However, they also like the security of a cardboard box to provide them with an area to hide away and for chewing. Routinely trim the rabbit's nails to avoid the possibility of injury. Similar to their nails, rabbits have teeth that continually grow. Therefore, they require items they can chew on to keep their teeth worn down. In the wild, these types of animals will utilize a variety of grasses, leaves and sticks to keep their teeth ground down. In a domestic setting, it is important to provide them with various items to assist with this process such as wooden blocks, twigs or fiber pellets.
Rodents – Rodentia Order
As with rabbits, rodents need good ventilation in their housing structure. Glass cages are not recommended as they can trap strong odors inside the unit. The wire mesh cage will also allow for the rodents natural instinct to climb. Due to their size, most pet rodents should be kept indoors as they do not have the ability to maintain a consistent body temperature in an outdoor environment.
While rodents tolerate a much larger pallet of food choices than rabbits, it is still important to research any new item that you want to introduce in their diet. Unlike rabbits, rodents can have a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains. However, studies have shown that many members of the non-domestic rodent family maintain a carnivorous lifestyle when found living in the wild.
To prevent boredom, provide your pet rodent with items to stimulate their brain. Rodents are easily entertained with an exercise wheel or paper towel roll for chewing and for hiding. Rodents also need fresh water on a daily basis.
Rabbits and rodents are good pet choices for those living in an apartment setting or when limited on the time needed to care for larger pets that require a lot of attention. To develop a good rapport with a pet rabbit/rodent, it is recommended that they be handled daily. Otherwise, these types of animals can become anxious, spooked or act in an aggressive manner when approached by their owner.